Sonagazi police’s role comes under spotlight as authorities withdraw the OC
After battling death for five days with 80% burn injuries on her body, the 18-year-old madrasa student, who was set on fire by unknown miscreants last Saturday, died at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH).
Nusrat Jahan Rafi from Feni’s Sonagazi upazila passed away around 9:30pm Wednesday after her condition critically deteriorated, Dr Raihana Awal of DMCH told Dhaka Tribune.
Dr Abul Kalam, chief of the medical board formed to treat the girl, earlier in the day had said that her condition had improved slightly after she underwent surgery on Tuesday at the Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery while being on life support.
But since then her condition started to drastically deteriorate, he told reporters later Wednesday night. “She had survived despite suffering several cardiac arrests. We tried our best to save her, but she died around 9:30pm.”
Soon after, the atmosphere at the hospital’s burn unit became heavy as Nusrat’s grief-stricken family members mourned.
Nusrat was set on fire by four unknown burqa-clad miscreants on the roof of the Sonagazi Islamia Fazil (Degree) Madrasa at Sonagazi last Saturday morning, in reprisal allegedly for filing an attempt to rape case against the institution’s Principal Sirajuddaula.
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After receiving primary treatment at two different hospitals there, she was shifted to DMCH burn unit later that day.
Even though Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ordered DMCH authorities to airlift her to Singapore for better treatment, if necessary, the doctors at Singapore General Hospital and DMCH concurred that Nusrat was not in the condition to be airlifted.
After learning about her death, the prime minister Wednesday night expressed grief and extended her condolences to the bereaved family, her Assistant Press Secretary Emrul Kayas told reporters.
The prime minister also ordered the law enforcement agencies to hunt down and arrest Nusrat’s killers and take punitive action against them, said her Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim.
DMCH burn unit Coordinator Dr Samanta Lal Sen told reporters that Nusrat’s body would be kept at the hospital’s morgue and an autopsy would be conducted on Thursday morning.
“Afterwhich, her body will be handed over to her family and they will take her remains home in Feni,” he added.
Police’s role questioned
With Nusrat’s death and her family’s cry for justice getting louder, local police’s role in pursuing the case and perpetrators has also come under the spotlight.
Earlier, her family members said several days before Nusrat was set ablaze they had asked for security from police and local administration after receiving threats from people close to Sirajuddaula ever since they filed the attempt to rape on March 27.
But, apparently, they did not receive any help from neither the police nor the authorities.
Sonagazi model police station’s OC Moazzem Hossain was withdrawn from his post and transferred to the Armed Police Battalion (APBn) Wednesday, Feni’s SP Jahangir Alam Sarker told the Dhaka Tribune.
The move came after Nusrat’s outraged family said they had no confidence in him and questioned police’s role in conducting a proper investigation.
They demanded a probe into Moazzem’s role in the whole affair and claimed he has been trying to protect the culprits, including Sirajuddaula and his cohorts, since the arson attack. The family also alleged that police made some changes to the FIR they had filed two days after the incident.
SP Jahangir also said the case was transferred to the Police Bureau of Investigation (PBI) for a proper probe.
Sirajuddaula, 2 others remanded
According to locals, Sirajuddaula, who was suspended by the madrasa soon after his supporters allegedly carried out the attack, is an influential person and there were a number of sexual harassment allegations against him even before he reportedly attempted to rape Nusrat in his office.
A Feni court on Wednesday remanded Sirajuddaula for seven days and the madrasa’s English Department teacher Absar Hossain and Nusrat’s classmate Arifur Rahman for five days.
The same court on Tuesday had remanded four others for five days.
Until now, seven people have been arrested and remanded in connection with the arson attack — over which eight people, including Sirajuddaula, were accused in another case filed by Nusrat’s brother Mahmudul Hasan at the Sonagazi police station.
SP Jahangir said they were hopeful about finding out the truth after grilling prime accused Sirajuddaula.
Locals say former Jamaat-e-Islami leader Sirajuddaula has so much influence in the Sonagazi upazila that even many local Awami League leaders support him. There are also a number of ruling party leaders who are in the madrasa’s governing body and are close to him.
An office assistant of the madrasa, seeking anonymity, told police that there were several sexual harassment allegations against Sirajuddaula which were buried by probe committees formed after those incidents.
Madrasa dorm and wondering locals
Locals suspect that the plot to burn Nusrat alive was hatched at the madrasa’s student dormitory where they saw a number of outsiders the night before the attack.
Sirajuddaula opened the dorm a few months back without the madrasa governing body approval.
Even after he landed in jail in the attempt to rape case, locals alleged, Sirajuddaula was maintaining regular contact with his people and intimidating Nusrat’s family in attempt to cover up the incident.
A teacher of the madrasa, asking not to be named, said the principal has a group of supporters consisting teachers, staff members and former students of the institution who get paid from the madrasa fund.
Sirajuddaula also has close ties with the madrasa governing body Chairman and the district Additional Deputy Commissioner Enamul Karim and Vice-Chairman Ruhul Amin, who is also the president of Awami League’s upazila unit.
Former governing body member and ruling party’s Sonagazi unit Organizing Secretary Sheikh Mamun told the Dhaka Tribune that Enamul did not take any action regarding the allegations of sexual harassment and corruption against Sirajuddaula in the past.
Enamul also waited a day before suspending Sirajuddaula after the arson attack on Nusrat, Mamun said. But, before that, Enamul did not take any steps when her family submitted the sexual harassment complaint against the principal to him.
Enamul rejected the allegations while talking to the Dhaka Tribune and said they were looking into the matter with highest importance.
According to locals, Ruhul Amin is also Sirajuddaula’s fixer and now leading his supporters. Ruhul and his close associate ward Councillor Moksud Alam had saved the principal’s hide in several similar crises.
After the attempt to rape, locals and her classmates had organized a human chain protest in the upazila town, demanding justice for Nusrat. Moksud Alam had organized a counter human chain program in the area demanding Sirajuddaula’s release.
Locals suspect that Sirajuddaula ordered his followers to kill Nusrat as her family did not withdraw the case despite their threats.
Several organisations, both in Dhaka and Feni, also organized human chains on Wednesday demanding maximum punishment of the perpetrators.